making new year's resolutions is one thing, keeping them another. The secret to success lies not in brute force or willpower, but in a savvy, artful approach to creating change.
When you want to engage in transformation, avoid the word "should" and banish guilt trips of all stripes. A resolution that fuels your excitement and enthusiasm and answers your desire to give yourself a better life is more likely to meet with success.
Start your odyssey into the new year by considering timing. If you're in the middle of getting married, pregnant, moving, changing jobs or breaking up with someone, it's time to resolve not to make any resolutions just yet. In traditional Chinese medical thought, winter is considered the ideal season in which to rest and build rather than expend energy -- not the greatest time, perhaps, to start anything strenuous. From this perspective, January 1 might be a good time to lay plans and start summoning energy for a springtime shift.
If it's a nasty habit you're wanting to shake, take a pen, divide a piece of paper and list the pros and cons of the change -- the ways the habit enhances your life and the ways it detracts from it. You need to convince yourself that breaking the habit is worth the sacrifice and hard work. And you need to rely on someone for support. Hint: your nearest and dearest may not be the best candidates -- they may resent being forced into unplanned change to accommodate you.
Know in advance that nobody's perfect -- you're going to falter because you're human. Make sure you plan how you're going to deal with the setbacks and little failures along the way.
"Frame your intention as a positive thing for yourself, in a way that is self-affirming rather than self-deprecating. For example, instead of saying, "I'm going to get rid of this fat belly,' frame your resolution as caring for your body. You can defeat yourself if you have too specific a goal. Consider yourself as moving toward such-and-such rather than saying, "I must stop doing X.'"
ELIZABETH WHITE, psychotherapist
"Flower essences flood the system with the most positive aspect of love -- in the presence of love, everything blossoms. People make promises and then they procrastinate. There's a wonderful essence for that -- hornbeam. Wild oat helps people clarify their life direction. People who do things to please others rather than fulfill their own mission are helped by centaury."
TAMARA PENN, certified flower essence practitioner
"The Taoist philosophy is to look to nature for a model when you're trying to figure out how to do something correctly. You can see in nature that sudden change is associated with major disruption or upheaval. You can avoid that by making changes gradually."
ALEXANDER HALL, naturopath
"People tend to crave what they're allergic to. They might be consuming a particular alcohol product because it's high in what they're allergic to. For alcohol cravings, pantethine (a form of vitamin B5) is most helpful, as well as B vitamins in general. The amino acid 5-HTP increases serotonin levels and helps reduce cravings. Take 50 to 200 milligrams three times daily. For sugar cravings, use 5 to 20 grams of l-glutamine daily.'
ZOLTAN RONA, holistic MD
"The kidney in Chinese medicine governs what is called "zhi.' If a person has enough zhi, they have enough willpower. To enhance zhi, don't eat too many foods that are cold in nature, such as raw foods, foods straight from the fridge, ice in drinks. If the gall bladder isn't functioning properly you'll end up being indecisive. Make sure you don't eat a lot of spicy or greasy foods, as that will set your gall bladder off. Steam mustard greens and serve them with ginger to clear the gall bladder. Chrysanthemum tea will also help clear it."
ROBERT McDONALD, traditional Chinese medicine expert
"Major life changes take at least a year to be integrated. One needs to develop faith that the future will be better as a result of change. Developing faith is a spiritual act, and for many involved in addictions the spiritual has not been part of their life."
PENNY LAWSON, Bellwood Health Services